Federal Way council will discuss term limits

In a unanimous vote Tuesday, Federal Way City Council members agreed to open the discussion on term limits for council members and the mayor.

In a motion made by council member Jim Ferrell, the discussion on possible term limits will begin at a special meeting to be held in the near future.

“I do believe that an airing of this issue is important,” Ferrell said. “(Let’s) figure out where this council is at on this issue and really solicit input from the public about whether they would like to see term limits for the two branches of government that are at issue here. I think it would be healthy for this city and for our system. If we determine, as a council, to not go in that direction, at least we’ve had that discussion, and I think the city would be all the better for it.”

Council member Jack Dovey asked for the discussion to be done with a “committee of the whole” instead of just the three-member FEDRAC committee. Calling it a “controversial topic,” Dovey said he thought it would be fair if the entire council is present for the discussion. He also asked that some research be done into what kind of effect a possible term limits ordinance would have on city government, referencing the growing pains the council, mayor and city staff went through after the change to a strong mayor system of government in 2010.

“We’re talking about a major change, and I think we need some real facts, and how that affects how the government works,” Dovey said.

Council member Roger Freeman and Mayor Skip Priest also wanted part of the discussion to include how a possible term limit ordinance would work, especially in terms of whether it would be retroactive.

Two citizens who have consistently pushed for a term limits discussion, Norma Blanchard and Clara McArthur, were present at Tuesday night’s meeting and again shared their thoughts on keeping fresh blood circulating in the city government.

“We need term limits,” Blanchard said. “We need new people on the council.”

McArthur echoed Blanchard’s thoughts.

“FEDRAC, a powerful committee of three chaired by a 17-year council member (Mike Park), and two other members with 14 and 13 years on the council,” she said, referencing council members Dovey and Jeanne Burbidge. “All serving as mayor at one time or another. These folks, and a fourth, have contributed to a powerful majority and are essentially responsible for having brought our city to its present state.”

Blanchard conceded that Federal Way’s select group of elected leaders have accomplished a lot for the city and its citizens, but she also feels the so-called oligarchy has stifled Federal Way in many respects since the city incorporated in 1990.

“An ongoing policy has emerged, resulting in Federal Way citizens in effect being removed from the democratic process. We have no valid input, no control of how we’re taxed for unwise and unwanted expenditures,” Blanchard said, referencing the Federal Way Community Center and her belief that citizens have had to pay increased taxes to make the Community Center appear successful.

McArthur concluded her remarks during the public comment period, saying that it’s time for current council members to “step aside and let new business people with fresh perspectives and connections sit on the council.” If that happens, she feels it will help “start moving our city again,” she said.

In comparison with other cities, the Puyallup City Council approved an ordinance in February to impose 12-year term limits on city council members, according to the Tacoma News Tribune.


In summer 2010, a petition was started by Federal Way resident Roy Parke, seeking to impose term limits on the city’s elected leaders. The petition failed to garner enough signatures to make the ballot. Last year’s proposal sought to limit council members to three terms of four years each, while limiting the mayor to two terms of four years each.

Previously, Parke was behind efforts to change Federal Way’s form of government from a council-manager system to a system with a strong elected mayor. Federal Way voters ultimately approved the change in government in 2009, after Parke helped get the measure on the ballot. In 2010, Skip Priest defeated Jim Ferrell to become the city’s first elected mayor.

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